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THE PYRAMID                             47
concentrated all further study upon this one, which I believed must contain the real secret of the Pyramids.
I came to know the Great Pyramid under every one of the marvellously changing ^ lights of Egypt. At dawn the first rays would touch it a silver grey; the disappearing sun would leave it a pale violet; while under the mysterious light of a full moon every stone from base to apex would appear as if bathed in a bluish phosphorescence tinged with silver.
Yet the Great Pyramid which we see to-day is not the Pyramid that the ancients saw. Theirs was covered with a fine, white, smooth, polished limestone casing on each of its four sides that reflected the sun's rays with a fierce brilliance, and that physically justified its old Egyptian name of The Light. The beds and sides of these blocks were worked to a perfect surface and fitted together with such mosaic precision that the cemented joints were scarcely to be seen. The stone triangle, so unexpected, so arresting, set down on the yellow carpet of the desert, blazed out with light like a gigantic mirror, and therefore was visible at enormous distance under the strong Oriental siin. And even as late as the end of the twelfth century these white stones were still in place, bearing upon their surfaces hieroglyphs that drew from the pen of Abdul Latif the following quaint descriptions:
"The stones were inscribed with ancient characters, now unintelligible. I never met with a person in all Egypt who understood them. The inscriptions are so numerous that copies of those alone which may be seen upon the surface of the two Pyramids would occupy above six thousand pages."
To-day, its once-smooth sides are terraced into steps, while not a single inscription can be discovered, and of all the thousands of casing stones but a few bare base blocks remain in position. It is clear, from these vestiges, that the casing material was takea from the Mokattam Hills which lie to the south-east of Cairo. For two years after Abdul Latif's visit, Egypt shook and trembled as a great earthquake smashed the town of Cairo to pieces. And then the Arabs descended on the Great Pyramid for building material wherewith to set up anew their broken city, a$ the Turks and Greeks had once turned the noble Parthenon into a quarry and carted off most of its stones to build their houses. They avidly stripped off the polished, bevelled white lining blocks and carried them off